Dimetrodon was a sail-backed, meat-eating animal that lived during the Permian Period. It was a so-called mammal-like reptile, an ancestor of the modern day mammal and received it’s name from Edward Drinker Cope in 1884. The description of lizard-like appearance that researchers use to describe the Dimetrodon is incorrect since the Dimetrodon is not related to or any part of the reptile family.
It’s physical characteristics are a long, deep, narrow skull, strong jaws with wide gape, small chewing teeth, tow pairs of upper canine teeth: saw-edge blades, “step” in the upper jaw and biting and grasping incisors. A huge skin “sail” rose from its back. The large sail-like flap of skin along its back, dense with blood vessels, was supported by long, bony spines, each of which grew out of a separate spinal vertebra (a bone in the back). The sail may have been a thermoregulatory structure, used to absorb and release heat.
The sail may have also been used for mating and dominance rituals, and/or for making it look much larger than it was to predators. The Dimetrodon walked on four legs that sprawled out to the sides, unlike the dinosaurs, whose legs extended under their bodies. Dimetrodon appeared in the late Paleozoic Era, during the Permian period, long before the dinosaurs evolved. The Dimetrodon was a sphenacodontidae. It was one of the first backboned land animals able to kill beasts its own size.
The Dimetrodon was a flesh eater, a carnivore. It probably ate other pelycosaurs (its close relatives), insects, and other animals.
The Dimetrodon was a dominant carnivore during the Permian period, living mainly in swampy areas. The first seed plants appeared at the same time as the Dimetrodon.
The Dimetrodon probably sunned itself every day to raise its temperature and leave its cold, sluggish, nighttime state. Its sail sped up this process enormously. It has been calculated that an average adult Dimetrodon (weighing about 440 pounds = 200 kg) would take about 1 1/2 hours to raise its temperature from 79°C to 90°C (26°C to 32°C). Once the Dimetrodon warmed up it would eat whatever was convenient. Although, the Dimetrodon may not be a runner, it is thought to be a fast walker and because of it’s sail like fin, it may appeared larger to other animals.
Birth & Offspring
The actual gestation period is not known, some paleontologists thought that the female would develop the eggs and than deposit them on the ground. Other paleontologists thought the Dimetrodons would mate in the spring and the eggs would hatch in mid summer.The female lays her eggs in rotten wood, a hole in the ground, or elsewhere on land.
Heat from the sun—and, in some cases, from rotting plant matter—incubates the eggs, causing them to hatch. Special membranes inside the eggs enclosed and protected the developing young in a fluid-filled chamber. This type of egg enabled them to live entirely on land. The length of incubation period is not known exactly.
This efficient thermoregulation along with their large and powerful jaws gave them the advantage over their cohorts, making them dominant. Their brains may not have been very large, but they may have had good sense of taste and since their choice of food was large, their eyesight may not have been very good.
Lydia King is a huge animal lover and has always been fascinated with learning about the animal kingdom. She enjoys writing about anything animal related from scientific information about rare species to animal references in pop culture.